Hirono Unveils Package of Immigration Bills

March 6, 2019, 12:57 PM HST · Updated March 6, 12:57 PM
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Photo: image grab courtesy live stream of press conference carried by US Senator Mazie Hirono on her Facebook page.

US Senator Mazie K. Hirono of Hawaiʻi joined colleagues, Senators Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada in unveiling a package of immigration bills to improve the care and treatment of immigrant children at the United States’ southern border.

The Senators spoke out against what they called “the inhumane treatment of the families currently being detained by US Customs and Border Protection after it was reported two children died while in Border Patrol custody.”

The three bills being introduced on Wednesday include:

The Fair Day in Courts for Kids Act of 2019, which supporters say would require the government to provide legal representation for unaccompanied immigrant children during immigration proceedings. The bill also aims to ensure that these children are informed of this right and have access to their lawyer even if they are detained by the government.

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The Child Trafficking Victims Protection and Welfare Act of 2019, which aims to help ensure that children in CBP custody receive proper care based on the expertise of child welfare professionals and pediatric medical experts, medical assessments by pediatric specialists, and access to legal services. Under the bill, CBP would need to develop, in consultation with child welfare experts, guidelines for the treatment of children in CBP custody. The bill also requires CBP to provide children with basic standards of care including ensuring that facilities are the appropriate temperature, a bed and sufficient linens, and adequate nutrition and water. CBP would also be required to have licensed child welfare professionals and pediatric medical experts available at certain ports of entry and Border Patrol stations.

The Immigration Court Improvement Act of 2019, which aims to help insulate immigration judges from political interference or manipulation by ensuring that performance appraisals are not measured using quotas. The bill would also bar immigration judges from being disciplined for good-faith judicial decisions.

The Senators were joined by immigration and child welfare experts Dr. Julie Linton, Co-Chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Immigrant Health Special Interest Group, Wendy Young, the President of Kids in Need of Defense, and Kate Voigt, the Associate Director of Government Affairs for the American Immigration Lawyers Association. Dr. Linton was also scheduled to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committing on Wednesday morning regarding “the long-term physical, emotional, and psychological impact of detaining immigrant children and separating children from their families.”

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